The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.
By: Comfort Ero
A big black rat called Fen arrived in a cool part of Newton forest after a long, tiring and extremely dangerous trip from a far-away city. She stopped to rest in the cool shade under a tree. Her 12 babies scurried to hide under her balding belly.
“Caw, caw, caw!” called a crow on the branch above her. Startled, the rat moved to run away. But when it saw that it was a small crow, black like she, she greeted the crow, her tail and nose twitching in anxiety.
“Good morning, my friend,” Fen said.
“Why do you greet me and call me your friend?” asked the crow.
“Oh sorry,” replied Fen, “that is a common greeting where I come from.”
“And where are you from?” a voice interrupted.
All eyes turned in the direction the loud question came from. They saw Pero, the African parrot. His grey and red plumage was highlighted by the background of dark green foliage he perched upon. Fen and her babies squeaked and scurried to hide in fear.
“Caw, caw, caw!” greeted the crow. “Pero, Fen and her babies arrived in Newton last night. It took them many days and nights to travel here from the big city.”
“And why are they hiding?” Pero asked.
“They are scared of you,” cawed the crow.
“Me? Scared of me, me, me!” chanted the parrot excitedly. “Please come out of hiding. This is Newton, the city of peace. I quite understand your fright. I know about some other cities where animals are attacked unprovoked. You are welcome to the village of Newton where people, birds, plants and other animals coexist peacefully.”
“Pero is right,” added the crow. “Even in winter, human beings put food in funny nests behind their houses to feed us! Caw, caw, caw!”
“What about the hunters? Do they not attack you with their spit-fire guns?” Fen asked timidly, not totally trusting her new friends.
“That is against the law here,” Pero screamed, irritated. “Anyone who does that will be punished by the government! Here in Newton, we are protected like treasured resources. The people have great respect for nature. ”
“Wow!” exclaimed Fen. “It sounds unbelievable!”
“No, it doesn’t,” chirped the crow. “I grew up here in Newton. Some of the farms and forests that I grew to know have been cleared to make room for new homes. This is because just as we migrate, humans also come from other parts of the world. They need homes to live in when they come. Happily, they plant trees and shrubs around their homes so our habitats are not totally lost.”
As the crow finished speaking, a seagull flew in with a big fish dangling from its beak. It landed in front of the tree where the crow perched. The latter flew down to meet it, but the parrot stayed on its branch singing. There was a mixture of “caw” and “koah koah” sounds of greeting between the two birds. Fen was very afraid of the seagull and kept her distance. The seagull looked up at the whistling parrot and said, “There you go again, singing your owner’s song.”
Pero retorted, “I have no owner. Tony is my friend. I am free to do what I want whenever I want. He is very kind, and we talk together like very good friends do.”
“Caw, caw, caw. Ah, ah, ah!” chorused the crow and the seagull. “Come down and have some fish.”
Suddenly, they heard human whistling. Pero replied, saying, “Tony, my friend, welcome.”
Within a few minutes his friend Tony appeared with a plastic bag full of birdseed. He spread a piece of cardboard and poured the seeds on it. The seagull and crow rushed forward. Fen and her babies followed timidly behind.
“Come on Pero, on y va?” Tony said to the parrot.
“Oui Tony, allons-y! J’ai une faim de loup!” Pero replied.
The crow saw the amazement on Fen’s face and said, “Pero can speak as many languages as are spoken in Newton; he speaks English, French, Spanish, Hindi and Mandarin. You know, Newton is a multicultural city. Pero learned these languages partly from Tony, who speaks seven languages, and by listening to people in shopping malls and other busy areas.”
Fen only partially listened to the crow as she and her babies ate hungrily. The seagull promised to invite them all to her home near the seashore. The crow said that she would take the rats on a tour around the city of Newton where there are animal sanctuaries, parks and brooks. He offered to show them where they can build their own home at no cost and live without fear.
“Humans here are so kind,” sighed Fen in relief.
“Yes,” agreed the seagull. “Humans are nice, but what I don’t like about them is the way they refer to us as wildlife! We are freedom-loving creatures, not wild species. Our way is how our life is meant to be. Human beings have their own way of life too!”
“Yes,” Fen cut in quickly. “I don’t know why people in Newton get positively involved in maintaining our habitations and in preserving our lives. Where I migrated from, there is so much hatred and violence.”
“Don’t you know why?” the seagull interrupted her. “Newton is home to different species of birds and animals. Negatively treating one or more species and their habitats will have a ripple effect on us all.
“Humans, animals, habitats and nature; we all are Newton! Without us, there’s no Newton; without Newton, we are nothing!”